Showing posts with label US. Show all posts
Showing posts with label US. Show all posts

January 27, 2018

700,000 Adults Have Received Conv Therapy in The US and 57K Children Will Get it

This is a story on the study done by the *Williams Institute. Instead of giving you my opinion on it I would like to expose  you to the horse's saying sort of speak. It is written in an easily comprehensible way. I included the numbers of the points they are making. adamfoxie

Conversion therapy is treatment grounded in the belief that being LGBT is abnormal. It is intended to change the sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression of LGBT people.
 Conversion therapy is practiced by some licensed professionals in the context of providing health care and by some clergy or other spiritual advisors in the context of religious practice.
 Efforts to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity are associated with poor mental health,
 including suicidality.
 To date, nine states, the District of Columbia, and 32 localities have banned health care professionals from using conversion therapy on youth.  The Williams Institute estimates that:
698,000 LGBT adults (ages 18-59)
 in the U.S. have received conversion therapy, including about 350,000 LGBT adults who received treatment as adolescents.
20,000 LGBT youth (ages 13-17) will receive conversion therapy from a licensed health care professional before they reach the age of 18 in the 41 states that currently do not ban the practice.
6,000 LGBT youth (ages 13-17) who live in states that ban conversion therapy would have received such therapy from a licensed health care professional before age 18 if their state had not banned the practice.
57,000 youth (ages 13-17) across all states will receive conversion therapy from religious or spiritual advisors before they reach the age of 18.
Conversion therapy has been practiced in the U.S. for over a century. Academic literature has documented instances of conversion therapy being used as early as the 1890s and continuing through the present day.
  Throughout the history of conversion therapy, a range of techniques have been used by both health care professionals and religious figures seeking to change people’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Currently, talk therapy is the most commonly used therapy technique.
 Some practitioners have also used “aversion treatments, such as inducing nausea, vomiting, or paralysis; providing electric shocks; or having the individual snap an elastic band around the wrist when the individual became aroused to same-sex erotic images or thoughts.”
 Other practitioners have used non-aversive techniques such as attempting to “change

thought patterns by reframing desires, redirecting thoughts, or using hypnosis.”
  An estimated 698,000 LGBT adults in the U.S have received conversion therapy either from a licensed professional or a religious advisor or from both at some point in their lives,
 including about 350,000 LGBT adults who received conversion therapy as adolescents.

Professional Health Associations
 A number of prominent national professional health associations—including the American Medical  Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, among others—have issued public statements opposing the use of conversion therapy because it is harmful and ineffective.
 Several of these associations have called on Congress and state legislatures to pass laws that ban conversion therapy. For example, the CEO of the American Counseling Association (ACA) submitted testimony to the Illinois House and Senate in support of the state’s conversion therapy ban bill in 2015.
 In addition, ACA members sent 79 letters to the Governor and 84 letters to state legislators in support of the bill.
 Also, several professional health associations have endorsed the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, a federal bill that would prohibit the practice of conversion therapy, including the National Association of School Psychologists, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the American Counseling Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Public Opinion 
 Three recent public opinion polls found majority support for ending the use of conversion therapy on youth. A 2017 Gravis Marketing poll found that 71% of Florida residents believed that the use of conversion therapy on youth should be illegal.
 A 2016 Gravis Marketing poll similarly found that 64% of  Virginia residents believed that the use of conversion therapy on youth should be illegal.
 Another 2016 poll conducted by the Center for Civil Policy similarly found that 60% of New Mexico respondents supported a legal ban on the use of conversion therapy on youth.
 Polling also indicates that many people do not think conversion therapy is effective; only 8% of respondents to a 2014 national poll said they thought conversion therapy could change a person’s sexual orientation from gay to straight.

Conversion Therapy by Licensed Health Care Professionals 
 As of January 2018, nine states and the District of Columbia had passed statutes limiting the use of conversion therapy: California, Connecticut, D.C., Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
 The laws protect youth under age 18 from receiving conversion therapy from licensed mental health care
 providers and, in some states, other individuals who perform conversion therapy services in exchange for payment.
 California was the first state to pass a conversion therapy ban in


 Four states—Connecticut, Nevada, New Mexico, and Rhode Island—passed bans in 2017.
 While more limited in reach than the statutory bans, a gubernatorial executive order in New York prohibits the state’s Medicaid program and private health insurers from providing coverage for conversion therapy on youth and prohibits facilities under the State Division of Mental Health from performing conversion therapy on youth.
 In addition, 32 localities in states without statewide bans have passed bans at the local level,
 over half (19) of these localities are in Florida.
  All of the state statutory bans allow licensing entities to discipline health care providers who use conversion therapy on youth under age 18.
 Under Connecticut and Illinois laws, the use of conversion therapy on youth is also considered an unfair business practice and the laws allow for enforcement and penalties consistent with other state laws against such practices.
 In addition, in 2015, a New Jersey court held that providing conversion therapy in exchange for payment constitutes a fraudulent business practice, regardless of whether it is used on youth or adults.
  An estimated 20,000 LGBT youth (ages 13-17) will receive conversion therapy from a licensed health care professional before they reach the age of 18 in the 41 states that currently do not ban the practice, unless additional states pass conversion therapy bans.
 An estimated 6,000 LGBT youth (ages 13-17) who live in states with conversion therapy bans would have received such therapy from a licensed health care professional before age 18 if their state had not banned the practice.
 More states are expected to consider conversion therapy bans in 2018.
 In addition, members of Congress have introduced federal legislation aimed at ending conversion therapy. The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention  Act,
 introduced in both the House and Senate in 2017, would classify conversion therapy provided in exchange for payment as a form of consumer fraud.
 The law would allow state attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission to bring enforcement actions against individuals who are providing conversion therapy for payment or advertising such services.
Conversion Therapy by Religious and Spiritual Advisors
 The state statutory conversion therapy bans apply to licensed mental health care providers and sometimes to any others who seek to provide conversion therapy in exchange for payment.
 The laws generally do not apply to religious or spiritual advisors who engage in sexual orientation or gender identity change efforts  within their pastoral or religious capacity. In most states with bans (California, D.C., Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont
  this means that any individuals (including licensed professionals) may engage in conversion therapy as long as they are acting as clergy or religious counselors and they do not hold themselves out as acting pursuant to a professional license. In states with bans on providing conversion therapy in exchange for payment (Connecticut, Illinois, and New Jersey 
 religious or spiritual advisors acting in a pastoral or religious capacity may continue to provide conversion therapy as long as they are not acting pursuant to a professional license and they do not accept payment for their services.  These exclusions for therapy provided by religious or spiritual advisors leave many youth vulnerable to conversion counseling even in states with bans. An estimated 57,000 youth (ages 13-17) across all states will receive conversion therapy from religious or spiritual advisors before they reach the age of 18.

*The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy at UCLA School of Law advance law and public policy through rigorous, independent research and scholarship, and disseminates its work through a variety of education programs and media to judges, legislators, lawyers, other policymakers and the public. These studies can be accessed at the Williams Institute website

January 24, 2018

How is The US Changed in The First Year of Trump [by The Numbers]

[Compiled by NPR].                    

Over President Trump's first year in office, the U.S. underwent some changes that he would probably cheer. The economy continued strengthening (including, yes, the stock market, as the president likes to emphasize) and the number of people apprehended while trying to enter the country illegally fell sharply. However, some changes are less promising: The nation's carbon dioxide emissions rose, and the amount of student debt grew by $47 billion. 
We have put together a wide variety of statistics to show how the U.S. has changed in the past year.
Although we're looking at how the country is changing throughout the Trump presidency, this isn't to say that the president created these outcomes. Wages, for example, are determined more by worker supply and demand than by the ripple effects of who is in the White House. Still, having a firm picture of the world the president is governing in and the direction it is moving is important for understanding the context in which he makes some of the most important decisions in the world. 
The economy has continued to improve under Trump, with the unemployment rate falling from 4.8 percent to 4.1 percent, and GDP growth ticking upward. The stock market has likewise risen quickly (though those gains largely go to richer Americans). However, wage growth remains middling and has caused some economists to wonder why a tightening labor market hasn't budged this number much yet.
Our apologies for some of the below letters not being clear enough, this is because this is coming from NPR and they are set not to be changed in any way. If you just scan over them you will see them getting to a normal clarity.
The global environment continues to trouble climate scientists and experts. Projected U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are nearly 15 million metric tons higher than they were a year ago. And while the global temperature average isn't as above the 20th-century average as it was in 2016, it still indicates that the world has warmed considerably in recent years.
International affairs
There were a few bright spots on the foreign policy front in 2017: The United States and Russia both dialed back their numbers of nuclear weapons, bringing the global total down, and the number of "free" countries (as scored by nonprofit Freedom House) increased by one. However, North Korea also conducted another nuclear test, and the number of forcibly displaced people increased.
Health policy
Trump never got to sign a health care overhaul bill that repealed the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). But he did sign a tax bill that eliminated the penalty for not having insurance — the mechanism for enforcing one of Obamacare's most important parts, the individual mandate. That won't go into effect until 2019, and it could mean millions more uninsured in the coming years, according to one estimate. However, the healthcare picture in America already is less than rosy — premiums continue to rise, as do the shares of those premiums that workers have to pay.
Health outcomes
Many health outcome indicators (like life expectancy and the obesity rate) lag by a few years, so we can't tell how Americans fared on those in the first year of Trump's presidency. But a few of the stats we do have show that America's kids are, at least in two areas, engaging in fewer risky behaviors than in 2016. The share of teens who have ever been drunk or smoked a cigarette dipped in 2017, though the share who have used illicit drugs climbed slightly.
2017 was an off year, so there are no major changes in the numbers of Republicans in office. But some of those small changes came with big attention — the number of Republicans in the Senate ticked down by one this year, with Alabama Democrat Doug Jones replacing Republican Jeff Sessions, who left the seat to become attorney general. Meanwhile, the resignations of three House Republicans and one Democrat shifted the numbers slightly in that chamber (many more have announced their intention to retire in 2018). Meanwhile, data suggest that Americans became slightly less Republican this year and slightly more Democratic and independent.
One of Trump's main campaign promises was to crack down on immigration, and on two counts, immigration has fallen. Trump reduced the number of refugees admitted, bringing that figure down significantly in 2017 from one year prior. And the number of apprehensions of people entering the country illegally at the southwestern border has fallen off in a huge way. That's in part because the Trump administration has focused heavily on enforcement. In addition, improved economies in Latin America give fewer people with reasons to leave, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center.

NPR's Rebecca Hersher, Hannah Bloch, Alison Kodjak, Joel Rose and Richard Gonzales contributed to this report.

August 21, 2017

Matthew Colligan, An American Nazi Who Never Had to pay a Price for Spreading Hate, Not Anymore

 Matthew Colligan (center with mustache) marched through the grounds of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville Friday night.

The photograph is as chilling as it is unforgettable: a sea of young white faces, lit by torches and inflamed by hatred.

The picture was taken in Charlottesville, Va. But the hate? At least some of that has its roots in Boston. 

When Dicky Stock first saw that now-infamous photo from last weekend’s violent rally, a face jumped out at him: The mustachioed guy in the second row was unmistakably his former Brighton neighbor and onetime friend. That, he knew instantly, was Matt Colligan.

“I considered him a friend,” said Stock, a comedian who now lives in Los Angeles. “He would come over and drink beers on our porch with us.” That was in 2011, and there was no inkling, Stock said, that his neighbor, who has spent the last several years living in and around Boston, would become one of the most recognizable faces of a white supremacist movement. 

“He was a very nice guy, I really liked him,” Stock said. “There was no sign he was going to get into this disgusting stuff.”

On Twitter, where he is known as @Millennial_Matt, Colligan cultivated an insipid notoriety, palling around with a right wing “comedian” known online by the nom de idiot Baked Alaska. The poster known as @Millennial_Matt once compared Auschwitz to a five-star resort and devoted a lot of time to trolling the right-wing men’s group the Proud Boys, evidently for not being far enough to the right.

In one video, he sidles up to Senator Elizabeth Warren under the pretenses of taking a selfie. Once he’s in position, Colligan smiles through his mustache and happily recites what has become his catch phrase: “Hitler did nothing wrong.” 

In Charlottesville, Colligan pulled the same stunt with Elle Reeve, the Vice correspondent behind a searing documentary about last weekend’s unrest. As he blurts his Holocaust denial, Reeve appears to realize what’s happening and dives out of the picture.

Until Stock outed him, Millennial_Matt was another anonymous Internet troll, spreading hate without consequences and saying increasingly outrageous things to get a rise out of people.

How much of his shtick is trolling for attention and how much was deeply held racism is impossible to know, if that even matters. Many a racist has sought to obscure his ideology in a cloud of LOL JKs. But once you show up among the chanting, torch-bearing crowd, then you own the full-throated white supremacy that comes with it.

In liberal Boston, Colligan could blend in — another skinny, white, twentysomething Allston hipster with a silly mustache. But if you believed the audience for white nationalist speakers at Saturday’s “free speech” rally in Boston would be coming from someplace else, consider Matt Colligan.

Colligan did not respond to requests for comment through various channels. But his Instagram account, “allstonninja,” confirms that Colligan and Millennial_Matt are one and the same. Several of the same photos appear on both the Instagram account and Millennial_Matt’s Twitter account, though the allstonninja is largely devoted in recent years to (I swear I’m not making this up) selfies taken with a hairless cat named Igor. “Allstonninja” at one point also posted what was plainly his own driver’s license photo. He cropped out his name but not his birthdate — a birthdate that RMV records show matches Matthew Colligan’s.

Colligan’s current address isn’t listed, but his driving record and Instagram photos suggest he remains in the Boston area.

Though he initially had some reservations about outing his former friend, Stock decided to identify him on Facebook as the man in the Charlottesville photo. Freedom of speech isn’t freedom from consequences, and the same Constitution that gives Colligan the right to shout his Holocaust denial and march alongside neo-Nazis gives Stock the right to tell the world who he is.

Soon after though, others posted phone numbers and addresses for Colligan that were either outdated or incorrect.

One home address that circulated had belonged to his mother years ago; a man in Illinois started getting death threats on his cellphone, which a database had incorrectly linked to Colligan.

After initially responding with taunts — he posted what he said was his “real” home address, the site of a Jewish temple in Boston — Colligan soon turned serious. In a video posted on Twitter, Colligan pleaded for the future of the country he’d been helping to tear apart.

“What’s happening today is horrible,” Colligan said. “This is a very dark time for America.”

Millennial_Matt is gone now. Not long after I reached out to him for this column, he tweeted that he had received death threats police deemed credible, and wrote that his family was in danger. Then he abruptly deleted his Twitter account. Police in the town where his mother lives said they were aware of the situation but did not confirm the specifics.

“I’m usually a jokester. I do a lot of comedy,” Colligan said in the video, visibly emotional. “But there’s nothing funny about threatening people’s lives, threatening people’s families.”

Publicly, at least, it was the first true thing he’d said in a long time.
 Mathew and the best president he is ever had

Boston Globe

July 3, 2017

Pilot Study Finds Discrimination Against Gay Men In Housing in US

 Rainbow burnt right from the window on this house

 pilot study released Thursday by the Urban Institute found instances of housing discrimination against gay men and transgender people in three major U.S. metropolitan areas.

In Los Angeles and the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where researchers sought to compare the experiences of gay men to heterosexual men and lesbians to heterosexual women, field testers posed as equally qualified rental home seekers who differed only in their sexual orientation. In Washington, D.C., the researchers compared the experiences of transgender and non-transgender people seeking a rental home.

After more than 2,000 paired tests across the three three metropolitan areas, the pilot study found gay men and transgender people — though not lesbians — were treated differently by housing providers. House providers told gay men about fewer available rental units, quoted them higher prices and were less likely to schedule appointments with them. Transgender people were less likely to be told about available rental units than their non-transgender counterparts.

“Differential treatment matters," Diane Levy, the study's author and a senior research associate at the Urban Institute, said in a statement emailed to NBC Out. "When people are discriminated against in their housing searches, not only does it go against our collective value of equal opportunity, but it limits their options for where to live, which can affect how they get to work, the schools their children attend, and other facets of their daily lives.” 

Most of the information about discrimination against the LGBTQ community comes from surveys, according to Levy, which is often anecdotal in nature and may not go beyond the most blatant forms of discrimination. She, therefore, hopes this pilot study, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), will help establish protocols for collecting more data on LGBTQ discrimination.

"The pilot study results, though not generalizable, add to the emerging picture of discrimination in the housing market against lesbians, gay men, and transgender people, and lay the groundwork for more expansive studies of this kind," Levy told NBC Out.

Past HUD-funded discrimination studies have focused on federally protected classes such as religion, race, national origin, sex and familial status. While the Fair Housing Act has does not specifically include federal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, this type of discrimination may be covered if it's based on non-conformity with gender stereotypes. Despite the absence of federal protections, 20 states and Washington, D.C., prohibit housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

May 16, 2017

64% of US Adults Say Same Sex Marriages Should be Recognized

Sixty-four percent of U.S. adults say same-sex marriages should be recognized by the law as valid. Although not meaningfully different from the 61% last year, this is the highest percentage to date and continues the generally steady rise since Gallup's trend began in 1996.
Trend: Support for Gay Marriage Continues to Gain
The latest update, from Gallup's annual Values and Beliefs poll conducted May 3-7, comes nearly two years after the Supreme Court ruled that states could not prohibit same-sex marriage.
Since then, debates about same-sex marriage have faded somewhat from public discourse as LGBT rights advocates have focused on other issues, such as transgender bathroom access. But despite the 2015 ruling from the nation's highest court, legal and legislative attempts to protect or challenge same-sex marriage rights continue to bubble up in some states.
Americans' support for same-sex marriage has more than doubled since Gallup first polled on the issue in 1996, when 27% said it should be recognized as valid by the law. In 2004 -- weeks before gay weddings took place in Massachusetts after it became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage -- less than half of Americans (42%) felt such unions should be legally valid. Majority support for gay marriage would not come until May 2011, about a month before New York became the sixth state to legalize it. Since then, support for legal same-sex marriage has steadily climbed, with consistent majorities in favor of it since late 2012.
Support for Gay Marriage Grows Among Independents, Republicans
Over the past two decades, Democrats have almost always been the political group most likely to say gay marriages should be legally recognized. Among Americans who identify as Democrats, support first reached the majority level in 2004, as the issue was heavily politicized in that year's presidential election.
Majority support for gay marriage among political independents followed a few years later, in 2007. The latest poll finds that more than seven in 10 independents (71%) and Democrats (74%) support same-sex marriage.
In recent decades, many GOP leaders adamantly opposed gay marriage, but rank-and-file Republicans' support has nearly tripled since 1996. The current 47% of Republicans favoring it, although not at the majority level, is the highest for this group in the more than two-decade trend.
Support for Gay Marriage, by Political Party -- 1996-2017
Majority of Protestants Support Gay Marriage for the First Time in Trend
U.S. Protestants, including all non-Catholic Christians, are now about twice as likely to support gay marriage as they were in 1996 (55% vs. 27%). In recent years, some Protestant churches have moved toward supporting same-sex unions; however, this year's poll is the first time Protestant support has reached the majority level.
Meanwhile, a majority of U.S. Catholics have consistently supported same-sex marriage since 2011, which is at odds with the Roman Catholic Church's official position opposing same-sex marriage.
Support for Gay Marriage, by Religious Group -- 2004-2017
Nearly Three in Four Say Same-Sex Relations Should Be Legal
Americans have consistently been more likely to say that same-sex relations should be legal than to say that gay marriage should be legally valid, suggesting that the marriage question pushes a moral, religious or cultural boundary for some people that gay relationships do not.
When Gallup first polled on the legality of same-sex relations in 1977, 43% said they should be legal. Majority support for legal same-sex relations was first recorded in 2001, at 54% -- two years before the Supreme Court would strike down state laws that banned same-sex sexual activity. Since then, support for same-sex relations has grown, with 72% currently saying they should be legal.
Trend: Americans More Likely to Support Same-Sex Relations
Bottom Line
Though the Supreme Court has settled the legality of same-sex marriage, a third of Americans are opposed to it.
But support for gay marriage has gradually increased over the past two decades, reaching majority support with new groups, as it did with senior citizens in 2016 and Protestants this year. Republicans' support for gay marriage is also at a new high and could trend toward majority support in the near future.
Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted May 3-7, 2017, with a random sample of 1,011 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.
Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.
Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

February 27, 2017

Father of Dead Hero Refuses to See Trump Asks for Investigation

Miami Herald obtained this interviewed  with the father of William “Ryan” Owens
 A family photo of William ‘Ryan’ Owens, who was killed in Yemen on Jan. 28, 2017. Owens was the first known U.S. combat casualty under President Trump. Courtesy of the Owens family

Read more here:

When they brought William “Ryan” Owens home, the Navy SEAL was carried from a C-17 military plane in a flag-draped casket, onto the tarmac at Dover Air Force Base, as President Donald Trump, his daughter, Ivanka, and Owens’ family paid their respects.

It was a private transfer, as the family had requested. No media and no bystanders, except for some military dignitaries.

Owens’ father, Bill, had learned only a short time before the ceremony that Trump was coming. Owens was sitting with his wife, Marie, and other family members in the solemn, living room-like space where the loved ones of the fallen assemble before they are taken to the flight line.

“I’m sorry, I don’t want to see him,’’ Owens recalled telling the chaplain who informed him that Trump was on his way from Washington. “I told them I don’t want to meet the President.”

It had been little more than 24 hours since six officers in dress uniform knocked on the door to Owens’ home in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. It was not yet daylight when he answered the door, already knowing in the pit of his stomach what they had come to tell him.
Now, Owens cringed at the thought of having to shake the hand of the president who approved the raid in Yemen that claimed his son’s life — an operation that he and others are now calling into question.

“I told them I didn’t want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn’t let me talk to him,” Owens said Friday, speaking out for the first time in an interview with the Miami Herald.

Owens, also a military veteran, was troubled by Trump’s harsh treatment of a Gold Star family during his presidential campaign. Now Owens was a Gold Star parent, and he said he had deep reservations about the way the decision was made to launch what would be his son’s last mission.

Ryan and as many as 29 civilians were killed Jan. 28 in the anti-terrorism mission in Yemen. What was intended as a lightning raid to grab cellphones, laptops and other information about terrorists turned into a nearly hour-long firefight in which “everything went wrong,” according to U.S. military officials who spoke to the New York Times.

Bill Owens said he was assured that his son, who was shot, was killed early in the fight. It was the first military counter-terrorist operation approved by the new president, who signed the go-ahead Jan. 26 — six days into his term.

“Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn’t even barely a week into his administration? Why? For two years prior, there were no boots on the ground in Yemen — everything was missiles and drones — because there was not a target worth one American life. Now, all of a sudden we had to make this grand display?’’

In a statement from the White House Saturday, spokesman Michael C. Short called Ryan Owens “an American hero who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of his country.”

The White House did not address his father’s criticisms, but pointed out that the Department of Defense routinely conducts a review of missions that result in loss of life.

Bill Owens and his wife sat in another room as the President paid his respects to other family members. He declined to say what family members were at the ceremony.

Trump administration officials have called the mission a success, saying they had seized important intelligence information. They have also criticized detractors of the raid, saying those who question its success dishonor Ryan Owens’ memory.

His father, however, believes just the opposite.

“Don’t hide behind my son’s death to prevent an investigation,” said the elder Owens, pointing to Trump’s sharp words directed at the mission’s critics, including Sen. John McCain.

“I want an investigation. … The government owes my son an investigation,” he said. 

Next week, Ryan Owens would have turned 37. At the time of his death, he had already spent half his life in the Navy, much of that with the elite SEAL Team 6 — chasing terrorist leaders across deserts and mountains around the world. The team, formally known as DEVGRU,had taken part in some of the most high-profile operations in military history, including the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

At the time of the 2001 9/11 attacks, Owens was in SEAL training, arguably the most physically grueling and mentally grinding regimens in the military. The team, tasked with tracking terrorists and mythologized in books and movies, had once been dubbed a “global manhunting machine” by the Times.

Despite the lore surrounding the SEALS’ exploits, almost everything about them is kept secret, even their names. Bill Owens knows very little about the actions that his son participated in, but takes pride in the dozens of awards he earned during his 12 deployments. Among them: the Silver Star, Navy and Marine Corps Medal, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

Ryan joined the Navy after high school, following in his brothers’ footsteps. His brother, John, 42, was also a SEAL, and his oldest brother, Michael, 44, a Hollywood police officer, was also in the Navy for a time.

They in turn were inspired by their father: Bill Owens served four years in the Navy, then joined the Army Reserves in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Ryan was born in downstate Peoria. While in the Reserves, Bill worked for Caterpillar tractor company, until he was laid off during the recession in the 1980s. Shortly thereafter, he saw a notice in a military magazine for new recruits for the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, and he successfully applied.

Owens and his then-wife, Ryan’s mother Patricia, moved with Ryan to South Florida. His elder sons remained with Owens’ first wife in Illinois.

Despite the distance between them, the half-brothers were very close, Owens said. They played sports and spent many summers and holidays together. Ryan and his brothers became interested in the military at a very young age. And Ryan dreamed of becoming a SEAL.

“He was always happy,” Bill Owens said of Ryan. “Every picture you see he has a smile on his face. He just had a real positive attitude.”

He was also driven. Ryan was so determined “to be the best” his father said, that when he failed the dive phase of SEAL training, he went out and hired a private instructor to get more training on his off time, and was initially certified as a civilian.

“He went out on his own and became more proficient. That’s the kind of dedication and determination that he had,” his father said.

Bill Owens’ marriage to Ryan’s mother ended soon after they moved to South Florida, and Patricia, who also became a Fort Lauderdale police officer, eventually moved with Ryan and her new husband back to Peoria. She died in 2013.

Ryan spent summers and holidays with his father and brothers in Fort Lauderdale and played catcher during the school year for the Illinois Valley Central High School baseball team, the Grey Ghosts.

  Ryan dreamed of serving in the military from a very early age, his father says. In this family photo, he is playing soldier with his older brothers. Courtesy of the Owens family
A SEAL’s heartache

Standing 6-4, and weighing about 225 pounds, Ryan loved the physical part of the job and serving his country, even though it took him away from his family much of the year.

“I always kept hoping that we would eventually make up for lost time, but that’s not going to happen,” his father said.

Ryan’s military career wasn’t always filled with the adrenaline of hostage rescue missions and midnight raids. In between, there were endless hours of training and planning.

There was also the heartache of losing his military brothers. Ryan was tasked in 2011 with escorting the bodies of 17 of his fellow SEALS home following a CH-47 helicopter crash in Afghanistan, his father said.

“He came back from Afghanistan and had to go to their funerals. It’s unnerving to go through something like that. It was one of the worst days in SEAL history as far as casualties go. He didn’t talk about it,” his father said. “A lot of them, they don’t talk about it, even with their parents.”

Doomed mission

Owens and his SEAL commandos set out in the dark of night. Planning for the Yemen raid began last year during the Obama administration, but the execution was tabled because it was decided it would be better to launch the operation on a moonless night, which wouldn’t occur until after President Trump took office Jan. 20.

According to a timeline provided by the White House, then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn briefed the president about the operation Jan. 25 over a dinner that included Vice President Mike Pence, Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and top security aides. It was not held in the Situation Room, as had been a practice under previous administrations.

President Trump signed the memo authorizing the action the next day, Jan. 26.

  The younger Owens served under three presidents and met one of them: Barack Obama. This photo is from a visit to the White House. Courtesy of the Owens family
“This was a very, very well thought-out and executed effort,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Feb. 2 as questions first arose about the mission. He stressed that it had been thoroughly vetted and planned on Obama’s watch.

Colin Kahl, a national security adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden, however, tweeted his contention that Spicer was mistaken.

“Obama made no decisions on this before leaving office, believing it represented escalation of U.S. involvement in Yemen,” he wrote on Twitter.

At the time of the firefight, Trump was not in the Situation Room, where he would have been directly involved in monitoring developments. Spicer said he kept in touch with his national security staffers, who were directly plugged in. White House officials also pointed out that, in general, counter-terrorism operations are routine and presidents are not in the Situation Room for every mission.

U.S. forces, targeting a suspected al-Qaida compound, immediately faced armed militants, a sign that their cover had been blown. The Washington Post reported that militants, some of them women, fired from the rooftops. Three other commandos were injured when an MV-22 Osprey, sent in to evacuate the troops, crash-landed. It was later destroyed by a U.S. airstrike to prevent it from falling into militant hands.

Some reports have said as many as 23 civilians, including an 8-year-old girl, were killed.

Afterward, McCain characterized the mission as a failure, and Trump responded with a series of tweets defending the Yemen action, and criticizing McCain. The rancor further escalated when Spicer later stated that McCain — or anyone — who “undermines the success of that raid owes an apology and a disservice to life of Chief Owens.”

There is no SEAL mission that is without risk, said Don Mann, a 21-year veteran Navy SEAL, now retired. Mann, the author of “Inside SEAL Team Six: My Life and Missions with America’s Elite Warriors,” said that if the assault team knew ahead of time that it had been compromised, the SEAL commanders on the ground had the ability to abort the raid at any time.

Some reports said that they did know, and went forward anyway.

“The SEALS, unlike other forces, make their decision on the ground and that decision — in this case — cost a life, which is very very tragic, but that’s war,” Mann said.

“These people are good human beings. It weighs heavily on them. Seeing one person die, especially a teammate or friend, is beyond comprehension.”

He said it’s natural that Owens’ loved ones would have questions about what happened, but they shouldn’t be swayed by the politics surrounding the tragedy.

“Nobody knows the truth of what happened except the person on the ground. When politicians get it, they warp it far from the truth,” he said.

Powerful hands

There were so many SEALS at Ryan’s service at Arlington National Cemetery that his father’s arm got tired from shaking so many muscled hands. At the end, before his coffin was lowered, each of the SEALS removed their badges from their uniforms and pounded them one by one into the casket. When it over, the casket was covered in gold eagle tridents.

Bill Owens doesn’t want to talk about Ryan’s wife or his three young children. There are other things that he believes should remain private. He spoke out, he says, at the risk of offending some of his family and friends.

  William Owens said he had deep reservations about the way the decision was made to launch what would be his son’s last mission.Emily MichotMiami Herald Staff
“I’d like some answers about all the things that happened in the timeline that led up to it. I know what the timeline is, and it bothers me a lot,” said Owens, who acknowledges he didn’t vote for Donald Trump.

One aspect of the chain of events that nags at him is the fact that the president signed the order suspending the entry of immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Yemen, on Jan. 27 — the day before the mission.

Owens wonders whether that affected friendly forces in Yemen who were assisting with the raid.

“It just doesn’t make any sense to do something to antagonize an ally when you’re going to conduct a mission in that country,” he said. “Did we alienate some of the people working with them, translators or support people. Maybe they decided to release information to jeopardize the mission.”

These are only some of the many questions that Owens believes should be thoroughly examined, including the possibility that the decision to move forward with the mission was motivated by politics.

“I think these are valid questions. I don’t want anybody to think I have an agenda, because I don’t. I just want the truth.”

[McClatchy reporters Vera Bergengruen and Anita Kumar contributed from Washington.]

July 22, 2016

US Backed Syrian Fighters Give IS Ultimatum of 48 hrs To Get OUT Manbij

U.S.-backed fighters in Syria Thursday gave Islamic State jihadists 48 hours to evacuate their stronghold in the northern city of Manbij. The forces surrounded the city last month and have been slowly closing in on it.

According to a statement from the Manbij Military Council, the IS fighters would be afforded the opportunity to leave the city with light weapons, without interference.

"This initiative is the last remaining chance for besieged members of Daesh [IS] to leave the town," said the Manbij Military Council, part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance.
The SDF is allied with the U.S.-led coalition of forces fighting against IS in northern Syria. The statement from the military council comes at the same time as tensions are flaring in the country following the reported deaths of dozens of civilians in air raids carried out by coalition forces.
Heavy civilian toll

Air raids near Manbij Tuesday killed at least 56 civilians, including children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Activists are planning protests across Syria and opposition government leaders are now calling on Western countries to halt airstrikes.

Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters man a checkpoint as civilians on pick-up trucks evacuate from the southern districts of Manbij city after the SDF advanced into it in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, July 1, 2016.

Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters man a checkpoint as civilians on pick-up trucks evacuate from the southern districts of Manbij city after the SDF advanced into it in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, July 1, 2016.

By Thursday, activists had taken to social media to organize protests and ask people from around the world to take to the streets to call attention to the casualties. One Syrian news page on Facebook encouraged its followers to demonstrate in opposition to “the massacres carried out by coalition warplanes.”
“We ask all Syrians, whatever their affiliations or sects, and all free people of the world and especially the people of Manbij to stand in solidarity with our devastated city on Sunday, July 24," wrote one page that publishes local news about Manbij.

Several other local news pages from Manbij posted photos from protests that took place Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Syria’s main opposition leader has called for the air strikes to be halted until a full investigation can be conducted into Tuesday’s civilian deaths.

“It is essential that such investigation not only result in revised rules of procedure for future operations, but also inform accountability for those responsible for such major violations," Syrian National Coalition President Anas al-Abdah wrote in a letter to foreign leaders.

The UN has also condemned the raids, which it said caused the deaths of more than 20 children.
“Such horrific incidents confront parties to this conflict with their shared responsibility to respect international humanitarian laws that protect children in war," said UNICEF's Syria representative, Hanaa Singer.

In a statement, the U.S.-led coalition said that it had conducted the air strikes and it was gathering information about the reports of civilian casualties.
Meanwhile, Syria’s main opposition leader has called for the air strikes to be halted until a full investigation can be conducted into Tuesday’s civilian deaths.

“It is essential that such investigation not only result in revised rules of procedure for future operations, but also inform accountability for those responsible for such major violations," Syrian National Coalition President Anas al-Abdah wrote in a letter to foreign leaders.

The U.N. has also condemned the raids, which it said caused the deaths of more than 20 children.
"Such horrific incidents confront parties to this conflict with their shared responsibility to respect international humanitarian laws that protect children in war," said UNICEF's Syria representative, Hanaa Singer.
In a statement, the U.S.-led coalition said that it had conducted the air strikes and it was gathering information about the reports of civilian casualties.

Voice of America

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